A proposed for-profit osteopathic medical school in Idaho may have to delay its opening date a year if a national accreditation agency does not sign off on its plans this month.
That could postpone other projects, including a proposed $3 million expansion to Idaho State University's anatomy and physiology laboratory that the new school plans to fund and use.
Dr. Robert Hasty, dean of the proposed Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine, met with the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation in Washington, D.C., on Friday. The school can't legally start construction until it wins pre-accreditation status.
"I am not sure as to when the commissioners will officially respond, but we, of course, are hoping it is sooner than later as we are excited to break ground," Hasty said in an email Saturday.
He said the school still plans to start work in April or May and open its doors to students in fall 2018.
Earlier this year, Hasty said that if work does not get underway by the end of April, the opening would be pushed to 2019.
When it opens, the school aims to admit as many as 150 students in its first year, charging around $40,000 in annual tuition. Doctors of osteopathic medicine are licensed physicians who provide a range of services, such as prescribing drugs and performing surgery.
Critics have raised concerns that the region lacks enough residencies to accommodate all those would-be doctors when the first class graduates in 2022.
Officials with the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine have said that about 78 new residencies had been secured by January, but an Associated Press review that month revealed those spots didn't yet exist. Hasty declined to say whether the school has established any new residencies since then.
The accreditation commission deferred a decision on whether to grant the school pre-accreditation status in December. In the meeting Friday, Hasty was expected to answer questions and address any deficiencies or concerns raised by the commission.
The commission was expected to take action that day, but it could be some time before its decision is made public, American Osteopathic Association spokeswoman Sheridan Chaney said. It won't be finalized for 30 days to allow interested parties to appeal or provide extra information if needed, Chaney said.
Officials with the Idaho Board of Education and Idaho State University said they expected to hear the outcome soon. They were awaiting word before moving forward with some plans.
Idaho State University hopes to double the size of its anatomy and physiology laboratory in Meridian through a project funded by the College of Osteopathic Medicine. The public and private schools agreed to share facilities more than a year ago, but the osteopathic school apparently realized that the university's 12-station cadaver lab might be too small to handle the demand of roughly 150 new private students a year.
Board of Education staffers have said the school offered to fund the new $2 million to $3 million facility. The board hasn't voted on the proposal yet. In the meantime, the university has paid a state agency $250,000 to begin estimating the cost, working on the design and engineering the expansion.
The osteopathic college will reimburse that money, according to an agreement between the schools, keeping the deal clear of a state law prohibiting the university from using public money to support a private entity.
"We were given pretty strict instruction that state resources not be used on this kind of project, and that seems fair to us," said Rex Force, university vice president for health sciences.
Board of Education spokesman Blake Youde said Friday that he didn't yet know the outcome of the accreditation commission meeting. Regardless of the result, the state's relationship with the osteopathic college likely would not change, he said.
Getting accreditation and opening a new school takes time, Youde said, and there are no deadlines in the board's agreements with the college.